Montag, 1. Oktober 2018

Two takes on overcasting

One of the common complaints about magic in a Vancian or spellpoint/mana driven system is that casters are awesome while their magic lasts, but useless when it's gone. This led to the idea of the 15-minute-work-day or adventurers (because then everyone rests until the next day) and a general attempt to give casters more caster-like stuff they can do more often (cantrips or whatnot).
There have been various attempts of making magic kind-of unlimited with ever-growing risks, with S. John Ross' Unlimited Mana for GURPS being the earliest approach to overcasting that I remember reading.

For my budding Ultraviolet Grasslands campaign I revisited the topic and had some discussions with Paolo, the author of the MageBlade! rules which I am using about Overcasting ... in the end, I wrote two different options which I want to present here.

I copied these overcasting variants over from the campaign wiki, where you may find updated versions later.

Overcasting Variants

Soft Variant, will lead to lots of overcasting

When a caster casts a spell more than once per day or is out of Mana, they can cast (again) by making overcast checks as outlined in Marvels&Malisons, but they also roll an Overcast die, which works like a usage die.
  • If the Overcast die result is higher than both overcast check rolls: Go on, fate is kind, keep on overcasting
  • If the Overcast die is equal or lower than one of the overcast check rolls: Reduce the overcast die by one step for the next overcast check
  • If the Overcast die is equal or lower than both of the overcast check rolls: Reduce the overcast die by two steps for the next overcast check
  • If the Overcast die is reduced to less than a d4: No overcasting for you
Overcast dice recover one step every time you regain Mana.

Optional: Overcast dice have to be purple. Skip steps for dice when you do not have a purple die of the proper size.

Gritty Variant, will give Casters an Edge, but they may die

When Casters want to cast more than the allowed limit (a spell more often than once, or when they are out of Mana), they can make overcast checks as outlined in Marvels & Malisons, but they also take attribute damage equal to the rolls (on each WIS for their WIS check and UV Factor for their UV Factor check). They can offset this damage by choosing from the YOUR WISDOM FAILED YOU table below (crossing out any results already taken) or WISDOM and the KARMIC BACKLASH table below (crossing out any results already taken).

A full week of rest allows the caster to recover ONE slot of either table, but the referee is advised to write in a new result. If all results are crossed off the table, no overcasting is possible without taking attribute damage. Good luck!

YOUR WISDOM FAILED YOU

  • Spell fizzles into a Maleficence.
  • Spell materializes but hits random target in range.
  • Spell burnt out of your memory. Find a teacher to regain it in a new form.
  • Another random spell is burnt out of your memory. Find a teacher to regain it in a new form.

KARMIC BACKLASH

  • Lose a level. If you complain, lose another.
  • You stop regaining Mana naturally, but have to steal it from others or roll for overcasting. Good luck!
  • Gain disadvantage on any and all rolls regarding Magic: Saves, overcast checks, attribute checks, etc. In doubt, referee decides.
  • Lose the ability to cast magic altogether. If you find a new teacher that shows you a new Praxis, you may regain magic under a new paradigm, starting at level one.


Personally, I prefer the more gritty version because it presents difficult choices (attribute damage is nothing to take on lightly in MageBlade!), and I think it's less difficult in terms of rules. And it could also be the basis for non-casters to do rituals / magic which either consumes their essence, destroys their bodies, or drives them insane ...

If you want to make Overcasting even rarer, you can make it a Perk, write more punishing table entries, or whatnot. But at a certain level of nastiness, it probably is more honest just to drop the idea of overcasting and recommend casters take a level or three in another class for extra versatility.
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